Strengthening young work in shrinking cities

Strengthening youth_work_in_shrinking_cities_2018_logo_transparent

Start & End Date: September 2018 to June 2020

Participating Countries: Croatia, Germany, Spain, Portugal

Project Partners: Mreza Youth Network (Croatia), CGE e.V Erfurt & EJBW Stiftung, Asociación Caminos & Colegio Oficial de Ciencias Politicas y Sociologia de Andalusia, UMAR & Youth Coop

Direct Target Group: Youth workers, educators, trainers: They will raise their capacities for work with youth and deepen their knowledge about the complexity of the work in shrinking cities. They will also increase their research and training skills. The organisations themselves will benefit from produced outputs (methodology, study researches, toolkit, materials, and dissemination), which they will be able to use in their future work. Also, they will strengthen their potential for networking and stronger international cooperation.

The past few decades have marked an increased social mobility combined with the drop of population in many cities across the EU. A trend of migration from small and medium-sized cities towards major European cities have caused an urban shrinkage. Population loss along with economic decline have resulted in uneven development patterns for EU urban regions, not only in terms of the local economy, but also in relation to the development of functional social structures of the cities.

A great deal has been written about causes and impacts of shrinkage, as well as about policies and planning strategies. Nevertheless, the state of knowledge in a cross-national perspective is rather poor because studies have basically analysed large cities and empirical evidence hardly shifts attention to the contextual influence on local dynamics (Wolff, Wiechmann: 2017). And mostly with focus on one or two country or community case studies with its application mainly in the academic sphere. Given that a shrinking city is one that has experienced population loss, employment decline and social problems as symptoms of a structural crisis (Martinez-Fernandez et. al. 2012), it shows how complex the shrinkage process is and that requires more explanation of push factors. The widely perceived “lack of future” opinion reveals the crucial push-factor for people to leave their place/country. Among these factors are: working opportunities, social content (cultural activities, free time, education and training), class, gender, ethnicity, and inclusion of youth in policy-making just to name a few.

Similarities can be found in many countries across EU. In the planning process, partners conducted a preliminary research and provided information about shrinking cities and relation to the youth in their countries. There is a unanimous conclusion that the socio-economic problems cause the cities to shrink and have enormous effects mainly on youth. On the other hand, there is a great number of youth that believe they can change things for better in their setting. Similarly, youth need access to be common accepted tools and improved practices that can be used in their own social and cultural contexts. Correspondingly, youth work should provide a bridge that strengthens young people at personal level, but also promotes public action and learning about translating key values of youth work into reality. Moreover, engagement in the wide variety of personal and social development activities, helps young people to develop the knowledge and skills that are needed in the labour market, given that 3.5 million young people are unemployed in the EU (Eurostat, 2018).

The partners embrace the idea of conducting proper mapping and research that would enable to better understand similarities and differences of problems while at the same time provide methods through the toolkit for learning on how to deal with critical socio-economic dynamics at different local setting across the EU. It is also important to investigate examples of successful youth work, identify and document innovativeness, and widely disseminate the results. To do that, there is need for data collection, gathering information and showcasing processes of different shrinking cities through mapping and addressing various drivers and impacts.



The aim of this project is to contribute to the development of new strategies for social inclusion and civic engagement among youth in Europe’s “shrinking cities.”

The project has the following objectives:

  1. Expand knowledge on the phenomenon of “shrinking cities” in selected European countries, with a focus on successful youth work practices that challenge their unfavorable social, economic, and political dynamics.
  2. Create, test, and disseminate a high-quality toolbox for youth workers operating in shrinking cities, based on the mapping and analysis of best practices in the chosen countries.

In addition, the project offers a valuable opportunity for youth workers, volunteers, and organizational staff to learn, explore, reflect, and develop tools that directly contribute to their personal and professional improvement.


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